El Paso County Sheriff’s newest K-9, Taz, visited the Board of Commissioners regular meeting on Tuesday.
“K-9 Taz is almost 14 months old,” said Commander Jeff Kramer, of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. “He’s a Belgian Malinois and we’ve had him less than a month. Taz and Deputy Wheat are in the process of going through a 10-week academy training program that we teach in-house. We’ve already seen some great potential from Taz.”
“We’re on the young side of things now,” Deputy Chad Wheat said. “He’s a little bit of a puppy still.”
The purpose of the academy is to teach Taz and Deputy Wheat how to perform the task and duties of a law enforcement working dog. The handler is a key component to the success of that team. All of the Sheriff’s dogs in the K-9 unit are dual purpose dogs. Patrol work includes searching for, locating and apprehending suspects, like a suspect hiding in a building. The dog is trained to locate a suspect and give the deputies an alert.
Tracking a suspect in an outdoor environment is the other part of the patrol work.
“If we have someone who has run from us, on foot,” said Kramer. “It’s important to get the dog on the ground and establish a track to find that scent of that bad guy. K-9s are invaluable in those situations. Just the presence of the dog showing up on a scene causes suspects to surrender. Even if they don’t respect the deputies, the 50 to 90 pound animal they respect very much and they will give up without further incident.”
The dogs are also used in narcotics detection.
Kramer said, “Our dogs are trained on a variety of different narcotics. They learn those odors one at a time. And they learn how to give the handler an alert indicating what they found. In 2016 we had a number of narcotics finds that were $15,000, $19,000, and $25,000 in street value that our K-9 units located during a search.”
Deputy Wheat and Taz work together five days a week and also do obedience training at home. The goal is to have Taz on patrol in eight to ten weeks
“These are not just K-9 working dogs, a partner. It is a lifestyle change for the handlers,” Sheriff Elder said. “There is a commitment to these dogs. The dogs live with these guys 24-hours a day, seven days a week. They go everywhere they go, because these are working dogs. This is a hug commitment by Deputy Wheat and our other handlers in the unit.”
Taz was named after the community participated in a social media voting process in September. Nearly 6,000 people voted for three options, with Taz pulling in 44 percent of the vote.
Deputy Wheat said, “The name is fitting. He always has his tongue hanging out the left side of his mouth like the cartoon character.”
“I’m jealous because I think he might have gotten more votes than I did when I got elected,” said Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez, Jr. “So don’t let Taz run for office in District 4.”